PROPAGANDHI at the Opera House, Wednesday, October 11. Rating: NNNN
Less than 20 minutes into Propagandhi’s sold-out Opera House show, vocalist/guitarist Chris Hannah made a half-apologetic boast.
“We’re going to play a bunch of new songs tonight, which is often annoying for people but it’s not for us because this new record fucking kicks ass,” he said playfully, earning roars of support from the ecstatic crowd of punks jammed into every corner of the room. “I couldn’t drink as much before we played because these new songs are really difficult.”
That got some laughs, but it came with a revelation. The material on the Manitoba punk band’s scorching new record, Victory Lap (their first in five years), is complex and dynamic. And since they offered so much of it up at this show, it felt markedly distinct from the older songs they played.
Hannah hollered and shredded with supreme intensity, yet he was the stoic centre of this band, framed by two frantic, whirling musicians. Yes, of course drummer Jord Samolesky is a bona fide thunder god — frenetic and powerful, propelling so much of Propagandhi’s energy. But, unless you’re a drummer maybe, he’s not the one who catches your eye.
This was guitarist Sulynn Hago’s first time playing Toronto in Propagandhi since she replaced David “The Beaver” Guillas last year, and she was psyched. She seemed overjoyed simply introducing Fuck The Border, calling for the song with relish and then headbanging her way through it while hitting every note perfectly.
But even Hago is no match for the personification of posi: bassist Todd Kowalski.
“I want this to be the best fucking night of my life!” he enthused early on. Then he proceeded to utterly lose himself in the moment, fist pumping, jumping around non-stop, encouraging people to be encouraged.
He insisted that while Propagandhi might deal with harsh realities in their music, they were at heart, a party band, which seemed like a fitting way to introduce 2001 song Back To The Motor League.
And while all of this mayhem spiralled around him, there was Hannah calmly staring out from the eye of this musical storm. He seems to have willingly taken on the role of the guy who’s going to hold shit down at all costs, concentrating hard on all of his parts in Failed Imagineer or Cop Just Out Of Frame. He sings Dear Coach’s Corner with fresh invective and almost a thousand people throw fists in the air. He’s still, slowly soaking it in.
Again and again, Hannah and occasionally Kowalski thanked us for listening to Propagandhi play songs from Victory Lap. It seemed almost sheepish, like they were imposing on us somehow. But the room needed and wanted these songs bad. There was nothing to be sorry for. Propagandhi came to Toronto with Victory Lap in tow and triumphed.
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